Back to their Birthplace

Wolverhampton, July 2nd.
Once again summery weather graced the return of S.T.D. Register members' Sunbeams to Wolverhampton, where these fine cars were built prior to the Rootes take-over. This year 29 were due to return to their birthplace, but not all of them made it; Carter's fast 1934 Twenty tourer, for example, was prevented from leaving Devon due to a duff gearbox. However, a very good array of cars, the Sunbeams supported by a number of Roesch Talbots, assembled at the Mount Hotel, from where, after a tasteless and inadequate lunch, their drivers moved off for the traditional tour through the city, pausing outside the old works in Villiers Street. This cavalcade is Police escorted and the Wolverhampton Police go out of their way to be thoroughly helpful on this nostalgic occasion — this year some of their top-brass was present, keenly inspecting the line-up in West Park, which attracts a considerable number of interested onlookers.

Interest was lent by the presence of two Sunbeam bicycles, a 1914 Lady's model and a 1912 Gentleman's version. As two vintage Sunbeam motorcycles had accepted the organisers' invitation to be present, there before our eyes were four examples of the famous "little oilbath" chain-case. Later one of these s.v. motorcycles, ridden by a youthful enthusiast. of 76, got away with that typical Sunbeam high-geared stride, to a typically deep exhaust note.

What of the cars? Oldest there was Walker's 1919 Sunbeam 16, with new hood and a splendid kit of heavy tools to deal with punctures in its beaded-edge tyres. Pilkington produced a very nice 1929 16.9 coupé with a B.T.R. Balloon Cord tyre on its spare wheel, plated dummy hood-irons, and a board for a competition number. In contrast, Selwyn's 1928 Weymann saloon 20 had painted hood-irons. Bolton brought the very first 20.9 to he made, with d.h. coupé body. Newman a very smart 16.9 saloon rather too bedecked with flags, flower vase and unnecessary lining-out; it still has its Goodyear Taxi Cord spare tyre. Frank Joyce now has two Speed Twenties, having rebuilt a derelict one to companion his well-known example that has completed some 138,000 miles. Dr. Crawford again brought his rare 1924 14/52 Sports/tourer with special inlet manifolditng, an S.C. deputising for the original Claudel-Hobson carburetter. A whiff of "R" heralded the arrival of Grp. Capt. Welch's fine twin-cam 3-litre. In fact, there were Sunbeams of all sizes and types, of which Whiting's 1929 16.9 tourer with front and rear windscreens was characteristic. The Dawn is often maligned but Paget and Lancaster produced two immaculate examples, of which the latter's had by far the cleaner underparts. But should it have Rudge-type knock-on hub caps?
There were no Darracqs, nor had any Clynos or Stars responded to the S.T.D. invitation to join in. But one of the Talbots was especially interesting — GO 66, a once-tatty 75 saloon, rebuilt as a very sporting fabric tourer, virtually to 90 specification, although it seems doubtful whether it was ever raced by Fox & Nicholl or Malcolm Campbell. The scruffiest Sunbeam to be seen was Crinson's, alias Devizes, 1928 16.9 saloon, presumably running on bags of hay, according to a Daily Express strip-cartoon, which makes it so powerful that its bonnet has to be strapped down! Three of the cars in the rally came on trade plates, which is bad form and the legality of which is open to question (the Police were apparently prepared to overlook this aspect on this occasion). There is usually a "gate-crasher" — this year it was an odd 12/50 Alvis.

The prizes were presented after tea by the Register's President, Mrs. Boddy; the Concours d'Elegance had been judged on a class system, whereby very good marks were needed to gain a First Class Award, so that there was no chance of poor cars getting high awards due to a general lowering of standards. Engines, chassis and bodywork were assessed separately, by different judges. [Boddy did the chassis part and, to be fair, awarded co-organiser Hughes' Speed 20 one mark, his own Sunbeam ½-a-mark, out of 20!]

For us the Wolverhampton event meant doing 427 miles in the Presidential Glasshouse, this 1930 16.9 shooting-brake reminding me of the leisurely age to which this kind of Sunbeam motoring properly belongs from the moment I began to top-up its sump with that New Formula Castrol XL which is recommended for engines that are beginning to use oil, because the gauze in the filler makes this a patience-demanding task, and then the dip-stick has to be screwed home before the sump-level can be properly read. But one is rewarded by that superb Sunbeam steering, a gearbox which almost changes from 3rd to top on its own, and goes delightfully from 3rd into 2nd, and stolid progression accompanied by "blowing of froth" noises and occasional fiery protests from the Claudel-Hobson carburetter.

On this leisurely week-end's motoring, en route, via Wales, we encountered other vintage carriages, namely a Twenty Rolls-Royce, a Delage saloon, a big Daimler and what looked like another Delage, a very sporting open model, in the dusk at Wargrave. And on the way home one Star which could have been at Wolverhampton crossed on to the Abingdon-Henley road ahead of us, having presumably. come from the V.S.C.C. Light Car Rally. — W. B.


Rootes Trophy (greatest distance from noon, Saturday): Dr. Crawford (1924 14/52 Sunbeam tourer). 330 miles, plus 30 age marks.
Bill Perkins Trophy fmost meritorious effort in upkeep): F. W. Joyce (1934 Sunbeam Speed 20 saloon).
Concours d'Elegance: First Class Awards: D. Whiting (1929 Sunbeam 16.9 tourers, L. Lancaster (1934 Sunbeam Dawn saloon), F. W. Joyce (1934 Sunbeam Speed 20 saloon). Second Class Awards: Grp. Capt. Welch (1926 Sunbeam twin-cam 3-litre), F. W. Joyce (1934 Sunbeam Speed 20 saloon), C. A. H. Paget (1934 Sunbeam Dawn saloon), A. Ward (1930 Talbot 90 sports/tourer). S. Plant (1933 Talbot 75 saloon. Third Class Awards: D. T. Newman 1929 Sunbeam 16.9 Saloon), H. Pilkington (1929 Sunbeam 16.9 coupé), J..S. H. Walker (1919 Sunbeam 16 tourer).


V-E-V Odds and Ends. —The willing £32 Alvis saloon which towed Cairnes' Alvis Special to Oulton Park was not, as stated last month, a TA21; prices have not fallen quite that low! The car is a TAI4. The May issue of the always-interesting monthly magazine of the Malaysian Vintage C.C. carried a picture of the Lanchester 43 built especially for the Maharaja of Alwar at a cost of 100,000 rupees. It had a carriage body, formerly built for King George IV mounted on C-springs on the chassis, the whole painted gold, including the crankcase. Needing only new tyres and another magneto in fifty years, the old Lanchester, still on the exclusive licence-plate ALWAR 1, led a recent vintage car rally in New Delhi, being still in the possession of the Maharaja's family. It is said that the Maharaja once wistfully remarked of it: "All this car is now good for is having its picture taken." This qualifies a reference to the car we made last April. Raymond Mays has promised a demonstration by the V 16 B.R.M. at Prescott, this year or next. A 1927 Morris has been saved from a field in Kent.

Photo Caption: You Can't Hold Back the Dawn! — Two of these Sunbeams, the last production, model to leave the Wolverhamplon factory. at the S.T.D. Register Rally.